Web 2.0 is happening inside organizations anyway – time to recognize it and do it well


The current issue of MIS magazine Australia has an excellent feature on Corporate Web 2.0 titled Meetings of 2.0 Minds, introduced with the words: The social communication tools of the web are making their irrevocably into today’s enterprise.

The piece begins with the example of how Bond University conducted an audit of use of Web 2.0 technologies, and “uncovered a vast, organic network of technologies already being used…”

The article goes on to quote me:

The experience of Bond University is far from unique, says chairman Ross Dawson of events and strategy company Future Exploration Network, who researches Web 2.0 technologies. Whether companies realise it or not, Dawson believes there are already instances of Web 2.0 tools being used within every large corporation in Australia, usually without any managerial oversight.

“One of the important characteristics of Web 2.0 is that it emerged in the consumer space, and made its ways in the corporate space, whereas most technologies did the opposite,” he says.

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Expertise location: linking social networks and text mining


A very interesting article in the Guardian today, US military targets social nets, describes new expertise location technologies.

Expertise location has always been a central ‘killer app’ first sought by knowledge management and now part of the promised of Web 2.0. It is a fundamental driver in any large organization being able to tap its own capabilities and take advantage of being large. This was always epitomized by the quote from Lew Platt, who as CEO of HP famously said “If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable!”.

I wrote in 2005 about how Morgan Stanley was finding that blogging was trumping in effectiveness its years of efforts into dedicated expertise location systems. The next layer is tapping social network and content creation patterns to identify experts, as has been implemented in some content management systems (CMS) over the last couple of years. This can be taken further when used within online communities and social networks, as SRI International is currently doing:

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Keynote for Optus Business: Five Driving Forces of Connected Business


I have just completed delivering keynotes in six cities as part of a national roadshow for Optus Business. Optus’ annual client event, this year titled Beyond 08, was a morning event for its clients and prospects in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. The sessions began with my keynote on Surviving and Thriving in a Connected World, followed by Optus executives presenting insight and client case studies on mobility and IP convergence. Each event included an exhibition featuring Alphawest, the ITC services firm Optus acquired three years ago, and a broad array of Optus Business delivery partner organizations.

Rather than try to run through my entire keynote presentation here, I thought it would be useful to include the key content from just one of the five sections, on the Driving Forces that are transforming a connected world. The rest of the keynote describes in detail what connected business looks like, winning strategies for organizations in a connected economy, and finally the action that needs to be taken to succeed.

The five driving forces of Connected Business are:

1. Connectivity

Increasing connectivity is an overwhelming force, shaping society and business. We have come a long way since the first mobile phones that weighed less than a brick in the early 1990s and the birth of the graphic web browser in 1993. As we shift to pervasive connectivity, giving us access to all the people and information resources of humanity wherever we go, entirely new possibilities are emerging on who we are and how we live our lives. As messages flow rapidly between us, the people on the planet are becoming connected as tightly as the neurons in our brains, giving rise to an extraordinary global brain in which we are all participating.

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I belatedly enter Twitterland – participating in a cross-section of human conversation – this is true “micro-messaging”!


I set up my rossdawson Twitter account this morning. I know I’m very late to the party, but will now be exploring this space.

I’ve followed Twitter and its peers from the beginning as well as I can as a non-participant. My attitude has always been that my primary online presence is my blog – everything flows out from that. I don’t have enough time to write anything near as much as I’d like on my blog, so I felt that starting to Twitter would take away from the little time I have to devote to blogging. I do have a very intense schedule almost all the time, with major events, speeches, and deadlines succeeding each other in rapid succession, on top of a stack of travel. I consider it my top priority doing my client work and events as well I possibly can, and while creating content is a core activity for me, it can’t take over other things (for now).

Clearly momentum has built over time in my intent to get onto Twitter, and have been playing with the idea for a while. I actually decided to get on after last catching with Shannon Clark in a San Francisco café earlier this year. He told me that Twitter was at the center of his life, and gave a compelling description of the benefits to him in being across and in the conversation.

However I’ve been so busy that I never quite found the time to get it going. I’ve certainly been active on FriendFeed, and using tools such as AlertThingy in fact has given me much of the functionality of Twitter, in allowing messaging across my activities, following Twitter feeds, and responding on FriendFeed.

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Living Networks – Chapter 3: The New Organization – Free Download and Commentary


Download Chapter 3 of Living Networks on Emerging Technologies

Every chapter of Living Networks is being released on this blog as a free download, together with commentary and updated perspectives since its original publication in 2002.

For the full Table of Contents and free chapter downloads see the Living Networks website or the Book Launch/ Preface to the Anniversary Edition.

Living Networks – Chapter 3: The New Organization

Leadership Across Blurring Boundaries

OVERVIEW: The boundaries between organizations are blurring as technology reduces the costs of transactions. It is becoming essential for companies to work closely with their customers, suppliers, and partners, however this involves very real risks. In this world leadership is required to take whole industries and supply chains into new ways of working based on transparency, collaboration, and sharing value. Those that embrace the networks and lead the way forward will reap the greatest rewards.

Chapter 3 of Living Networks – Commentary and updated perspectives

From the original writing of Living Networks I felt that the issues raised in chapter 3 were at the heart of what the living networks are about. The key concept here is that of ‘blurring boundaries’, something we are experiencing across every domain of society and business, including organizations, industries, and countries.

A quotation I discovered since writing the book, and have used extensively over the last years in my presentations, expresses this perfectly:

“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”

This quote comes from the delightful and wise book Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse, which looks at how we either limit ourselves or open ourselves to infinite opportunity in our lives. While it was published in 1986, its messages are more relevant than ever today.

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Keynote at Tandberg Summit: weaving together Enterprise 2.0 and videoconferencing


I recently did the opening keynote on The Future of Business at the Tandberg Summit 2008, which brings together the clients, distributors and partners of the global videoconferencing firm, and stayed for most of the first day. I found it extremely interesting being among a large people who were concerned with implementing video in organizations, as these are almost entirely different people to those concerned with Enterprise 2.0 approaches, though their objectives and issues are very similar. More thoughts on that in a moment. It’s probably worth setting the scene with a review of the conference by CRN Magazine, titled Tandberg Summit 2008: Video killed the radio star. The entire article is worth a read – I’ve excerpted below the section covering my presentation:

A highlight of the conference was a keynote by Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network, who provided insight into the dynamics within an organisation and the video communications market. Referring to internal business practices, Dawson stressed the importance of collaboration between employees and identifying personal qualities that may help foster growth.

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Network Roundtable: Building Collaborative Teams


The current presentation at the Network Roundtable conference is from Tamara Erickson, who has an article out in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review on Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams. Her organization, The Concours Institute, has recently completed an extensive study on collaboration in over 50 teams in 15 multi-nationals. She defines innovation as the combination of two previously unrelated ideas. Team complexity, including group dversity, size, and geographic dispersion, all led to lower levels of performance. In addition, the more educated the group, the less collaborative they tended to be. For complex teams, you have to invest specifically if you want them to perform well.

In the study Erickson identified eight factors that demonstrably improve team performance:

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The role of specialist social networks for professionals: opening out communities of practice


It’s one thing to discuss whether Facebook is a useful professional social networking tool. The answer is: it is if you want it to be. It’s another issue to uncover which are the most relevant social networks for your professional life, and to use these effectively. The most important connections for most professionals (who are deep knowledge specialists in their domain of expertise) are their peers. As such, it often makes sense to belong to specialist social networks.

This relates strongly to the well-established field of Communities of Practice. Many organizations have established communities of experts in specific domains who share insights into what they’re learning, answer questions, and build knowledge collectively. Less often communities of practice span organizational boundaries, for example with clients or suppliers. Certainly there is almost always some kind of boundary on who can participate. Now that, over the last seven years or so, we have worked out the fundamentals of effective online social networking platforms, these are ripe to be applied to specialist domains. This enables an opening out of what were formerly closed communities, to provide useful platforms for experts to share not just knowledge, but also social connections. It is important to recognize that the current crop of social networking tools are now highly evolved applications that go substantially beyond the tools that have previously been available. Since being a professional of any kind requires keeping on top of massive amounts of information and new developments, effective social networks are invaluable in keeping on top of that.

The New York Times Wall Street Journal has a good article titled Social Networking Goes Professional, which outlines some of the current crop of specialist professional social networks, and their business models. The ones they mention, plus a couple of others I’m familiar with, are:

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Knowledge management shifts to new ways of thinking


The most recent issue of Image & Data Manager magazine has an article titled Knowledge management gets a social life, drawing extensively on an interview with me. Sections of the article that quote me as below:

“Organisations have been trying to find ways to make knowledge management more productive, but a lot of problems have stood in the way,” says Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network. “But we have now moved into a new phase of emerging technologies.”

Dawson likes to refer to this organisational shift as Enterprise 2.0, where the tools and approaches of Web 2.0 are now captured inside the enterprise. “It’s about getting group input to create an emergent response, getting many people to create input,” says Dawson. “You can click input, tag input and rate input and as you get more input on creating outcomes, emergent results occur. Things get better the more people that use them.”

Just as Web 2.0 tools can determine what does and does not work online through the power of mass appeal; this user-generated input can also assist everday business operations. “In the enterprise you can map sales – you could for example, find out what the weather was and how It affected sales, and make it easier for anybody to bring together different data-sets,” says Dawson. “This is where it all starts to be knowledge management.”

For organisations, harnessing the capabilities of Web 2.0 could involve replacing the traditional taxonomy with a user-defined folksonomy. “A taxonomy is where people analyse and prioritise ways for classifying information,” says Dawson. “A folksonomy is built by everyone, there is no architect and no designer. It’s created by the people who actually do the work.”

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Particls switches on the power of RSS


In the last few days I’ve made a couple of references to Particls, first in writing about our Web 2.0 in Australia event next week, where we had invited Particls to present as one of the most interesting applications on the scene, and an hour ago in my Top 60 Web 2.0 Applications in Australia list posted on Read/Write Web. As of earlier today, Particls has moved to public beta, and deservedly attracted substantial attention. The best reviews out so far are from Read/Write Web, Techcrunch, Mashable!, and StartupSquad – best to go there for a full rundown on Particls.

I think Particls is important for two reasons. First, it provides a completely friendly interface to RSS with far superior functionality to your usual feed aggregators. RSS is one of the most important foundations to Web 2.0 and the promise of the Internet, yet a minority of people really understand what it is, and use it well. Particls is the first of what I hope are a whole generation of tools that embed RSS in ways that make it invisible and provide access to the information people want.

Second, it is a solid and useable implementation of information filtering that shows how this landscape may unfold moving forward. Active filtering is an issue I’ve been strongly interested in for the last decade. For example, back in 2001 a company called Worldstreet was using XML-based document tagging to improve the flow of research documents from investment banks to funds managers, allowing high priority and relevant information to cut through to the users from the myriad of information they were receiving. The company was bought by Thomson Financial and incorporated into their Thomson Connect product, with its best features ultimately disappearing. Now that we are all experiencing the same degree of information overload as the funds managers of yesteryear, the world is now ready for sophisticated multi-tier filtering of information.

Having had the Particls toolbar installed for just a day now, I can confirm that the content streaming through is highly relevant to me, and I have better access to the information that’s relevant to me. Those that can use these kinds of tools well will be highly advantaged in our intensely knowledge-based economy moving forward.

Click on the image here to download Particls, including a feed to this blog (which you can delete if you wish):

Particls InTouch